May 5th, 2013 | No Comments
Well, we’re on our last month and a half of our four-year stay in Hanoi. Hard to believe all that time has passed.
This blog has been intermittent for a while, mostly because I’ve been deep in work on my novel and making good progress. I’ll have more thoughts on our upcoming move to Geneva and the end of our time in Vietnam, but for now here’s a report on our last getaway while we live in Southeast Asia: another trip to Thailand, this one to Pai, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok.
Click on any of the pictures in this post or this link to see a slideshow of photos from this trip.
We had big plans to tour Burma, but with the impending move, it became too complicated and expensive, so instead we did a weeklong trip to Northern Thailand with the whole family. After a flight to Bangkok and Chiang Mai, it was into the minibus for 762 winding turns and a fou- hour trip into the hill town of Pai. Luckily, the driver took the road at a sane speed but the girls were a bit groggy when we finally pulled into the bus stop.
Pai is one of those places that used to be legendary and a little sketchy on the backpacker circuit: a place of opium and minority tribe revolutionaries and tribal people in traditional dress. These days, it’s pretty tamed. There are tons of backpacker places, the drug of choice is pot, and there’s a laid back hippie vibe to the town. You can find abundant cappuccinos and juice bars and vegan restaurant, but it’s still a real Thai town and the countryside is lovely. And let’s face it, we were quite happy to have abundant pizza for the kids, northern Thai dishes for us, and a groovy swimming pool/bar to hang out at.
We stayed at the Pairadise Resort (get it? Pai-radise) and it was a lovely place of frangipani, cute bungalows and a “natural” swimming pool fed by the river. Breakfast was yummy and it was a short walk into town. The weather was a veritable blast furnace and clearly the region is the middle of a pretty severe drought. One day, to cool off, we hired a few inner tubes and floated down the river for a couple hours. It was fun, although the water level was low enough that more than a few times you had to walk over the shallow, gravelly river bed.
We ate well, and found some delicious northern Thai specialties at Nong Beer in town. The sandwiches and snacks at Fluid, the funky local swimming pool, were tasty and the beers were cold. One afternoon the girls had a little beauty break, with a mani-pedi and some rainbow colored hair braids. Another day we rented motorbikes and scooted out into the country. The waterfall at Pom Bok was a bit of a fizzle because of the summer drought, but it was still cool in the canyon. The sunset from Wat Phra That Mae Yen temple above Pai was spectacular–and the monk who runs the place is a very chatty fellow.
After a few days of blissing out in Pai, it was back on the bus and winding out way back to Chiang Mai. We didn’t have much time to spend in Chiang Mai, but we did agree after much urging by the girls to visit Tiger Kingdom. It’s a touristy place where you can pet a tiger. We chose the small ones, under three months. The girls loved it, although I had mixed feelings about the place. Clearly it’s designed to extract money from tourists, but it does provide a chance to see these impressive creatures up close and personal (there was no way I was getting in a enclosure with a full grown tiger, however.) I just wish there were more of a conservation mission and message to the place.
Then it was back to Bangkok for yet another visit. We’ve been here many times and always find something new to enjoy about the city. Yes, it’s busy and crowded (and we’ll never make the mistake of trying to take a taxi across town in mid-day again) but the bustle and diversity and zany capitalism are all part of the experience. We did some requisite culture: taking Joanie to see the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, our favorite temple in the city. Then it was time for some serious capitalism: a visit to one of the world’s largest markets, Chatuchak Weekend Market.
It’s 35 acres of steamy stalls peddling everything imaginable, from t-shirts to handicrafts to fake Rolexes. We got our fix snapping up clothing and flip flops and a collection of colorful acrylic Buddhas. We shopped almost until we dropped and then plopped into our pool at the Reno Hotel, a nice mid-range hotel with a decent restaurant, great pool and funky decor.
And so went our a great little getaway to cap our stay in Southeast Asia…